19 July 2009 | Bahamas
Let me preface this with a simple caveat...I have had a few Bahamian rums and am listening to some of my favorites, from Jonnie Mitchell singing Both Sides Now to Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline to Rufus Wainwrights's rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.
We are one page from our final destination. Just the turn of a page on our chart books and we will be on our way to Ft Lauderdale. How a page on a book can determine the end of a one year journey is beyond me.
I watched my children tonight as they played in the setting sun jumping off the bridge and rigging new ways to swing off the stern. Over 365 days in and it never gets boring.
I cried tonight as the kids talked openly about their careers - 'What are the best marine biology universities? Do you think I would make a good journalist? What about if I became a lawyer?' I cried thinking about the times I sang John Denver's Sunshine on My Shoulders aboard Chilli Oyster in the setting sun of Norman Island.
One more 40+ nautical mile sail and we will be landlocked in a marina in Ft Lauderdale. No more casting our lines, no more setting the genoa, no more finding the perfect spot to read. No more watching the sunset at night or feeling the heat of sun in the early morn without worry of sunburn. No more gourmet meals on board, no more snorkeling in crystal clear waters. No more marveling at sunsets, clouds, and the ocean's wonders. No more falling asleep to the gentle rocking of the evening waves sheltered in a bay.
A year in our lives...to reset our directions...to cement memories. I cannot fathom that in a mere 365 days we have forever changed as a family. Jenny a reader wiser than her 10 years, Connor an incredibly intelligent man still trapped in a child's body, Ziggy a sailor searching for a giant dorado and the perfect novel - to read, or perhaps to write.
And then there is John, a captain who perhaps never knew he has everything there is to be a perfect captain. Capable of charting our course, leading his crew, seeking safety, fixing problems, finding a peaceful anchorage, hosting the perfect party, pouring a tasty rum and coke, searing fresh ahi, filleting another fish. Without flinching altering course to help others. He was and is the captain of the MacKenzie ship. You are my home.
For those of you who have joined in this incredible journey, I thank you for making our lives richer - before we began the family journey, there was Darryl, Steve and Bob, John's brother who joined the ARC and some crazy seas and winds, mechanical failures and the calmest seas in the northern Atlantic to deliver Windancer to the Azores. We started as a family in Lagos, Portugal and welcomed (in order) Karen, Emily and Kate in Barcelona and the Balearics who joined as our first guests and set a very, very high bar; Uncle Dan, Aunt Nancy and Misa in the south of France and 60ish birthday in the Monte Carlo Casino; Maris and Michel in Italy, for fixing not only our teeth but our course, had it not been for you we would not have experienced the pasta, pizza, gelato and history of this beautiful county; Mark who jumped aboard in Gibraltar and journeyed with us to Morocco including Rabat and Marrakech; Uncle Bruce, Aunt Marlene (who traveled in borrowed clothes until her suitcase arrived in St Lucia and didn't complain once...NOT) and Cousin Ari who ventured with us and Maris across the ocean over 2700 nm from Las Palmas, Canaries to St Lucia and traveled with us north through Antigua, St Maartin and to the BVI for Christmas; Dave, Michelle and daughters Caroline and Sabrina who rejoined us in the BVIs and experienced Old Year's Day on a grassy knoll; Alicia, Michael and Caroline in their BVI tour to experience dancing tuna and real blue waters; Bruce, Steph, Kim and Shae in the ponds and pools of St Marten; and Alice, Mike, Connor and Devon for a week of sailing in Antigua through the clearest waters, sails at 9 knots and drifting away not to mention countless euchre nights.
The visits from friends at home only reminded us who and what we had left behind; emails and blog comments delivered us missives of well wishes and glimpses into the lives of those who still hold us close in their hearts.
But our trip would never have been complete without the friendship of those we met along the way who altered our course and changed our lives forever. From the early ARC partners on Fuerte and C-Squared to Fionn on the ARC team to the well wishers and advisers in Colin on Summer Breeze, Jim and Jeb, John and Jillian on Stevie Jean, and George and Sandra on Cool Runnings.
But, it was during our ARC journey from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to St Lucia, when we met the friends who grabbed on to our hearts and have never let go. We miss the laughs with Angela and Richard aboard Sophistikate and traveled the miles knowing they were sure to be just around the corner in the next bay.
In our home away from home, we joined up with our Canadian compadries, the new sailors aboard Solitaire and experienced the beauty of the Caribbean with Barry, Alison, Kayla and Quinn.
And lastly, we end our trip with Dave, Becky, Jordan and Indy (and Molly, the bearded collie) on Chilli Oyster. From the moment you knocked on the hull to say hello, we welcomed your friendship, your laughter, your sailing stories. We swapped recipes, crew, chilled cocktails and bolts but we shared more, much more. We leave our trip anchored deeply knowing you are only a horizon away.
There were those who wished to be here who could not, but let it be known, that although not physically here, you journeyed with us every day in heart and spirit. We could not have done it without you.
I wish to thank each and every one who made a difference to our lives during the journey of a lifetime.
With love, Ziggy
18 June 2009 | Staniel Cay, Exumas
Have you ever seen the James Bond movie Thunderball? Well, I have and I have also been to the cave that is named after it. On the 3rd of June we arrived in Staniel Cay the home of the famous cave and anchored in 10 feet of water. We noticed a building that in big red letters said Club Thunder Ball. We asked where the cave was and they told us to go to the closest rock and you will see a buoy. So we did that and around the corner was another boat and a buoy. We tied up and Connor jumped in. As soon as he was in 150 fish swarmed him. Next dad jumped in and opened a pack of crackers and they all moved from Connor to dad. They where so close you could touch them. The fish where wild and all attacked the cracker at once. I had never seen so many fish in one place before. There were sargeant majors, parrot fish, angel fish, grouper, snapper and even an eel.
We went into the cave and the fish would just follow you in. Dad went into the cave first and then everyone else. When we got in all the fish where there. I started to feed them but I started to scream because they where swimming through my hair and nipping at me. I was so scared. Dad asked if Connor and I wanted to swim through to the other side. We both said yes and swam to the other entrance. Connor went through first then dad helped me through. We went back and someone spotted an eel. It was about a foot long.
We all got in the dinghy and drove back to the boat and dropped dad off. Mom, Connor and I went back for another snorkel. This time mom bonked her head on a rock and I started screaming again.
In honour of visiting the cave we watch the James Bond movie Thunderball, and if you had only seen the movie you would never know the beauty in Thunderball Cave .
SWIMMING WITH THE WORLD’S GREATEST PREDATOR
10 June 2009 | Stuat's Cove, New Providence, Bahamas
With three bags in tow, Dad and I boarded the pink and white bus idling outside Atlantis. Written on the side in large letters was "Stuart Cove". Stuart Cove 's Dive Bahamas is a dive company situated on the Southwest side of New Providence. We rode for the better part of 45 minutes until we arrived at a large complex that is Stuart Cove's Dive center. Stuart Cove's has worked on numerous TV shows and movies including the James Bonds For Your Eyes Only, Never Say Never Again, The World Is Not Enough, and Casino Royale, as well as Mythbusters, 20 000 Leagues Under The Sea, and Flipper. Open Water was filmed here and coincidently Dad and I were going on a dive boat to swim with sharks.
We registered and brought our gear aboard. The first dive was a wall dive, along the tongue of the ocean. This dive is meant to get you acclimatized to swimming with sharks. We geared up; I was the only person without a wetsuit and the only child. We jumped in to notice 50 yellowtail snapper in a clump under the boat. We descended to 40 feet and swam towards the wall. The coral was beautiful and the grouper aplenty. As we descended down the wall, a Caribbean reef shark appeared from the haze. My expectation of seeing my first was having to refrain from soiling myself, ceasing to breathe*, then screaming through my regulator and dashing off as fast as I can while hyperventilating. Both strangely and luckily that was not the case.
As the shark swam by I stared at it until it disappeared into the abyss. No freaking out, no soiling myself, just sitting there. It was not as freaky as expected but nerve raking nonetheless. This dive was a new experience for me because I had only ever been diving with 3 other people maximum but her there were 19 other divers around me. The nuisance that is lionfish was sure apparent. We saw 5 or 6 of these poisonous but beautiful fish. They are not supposed to be in Atlantic and are breeding twice as fast as they normally should. We ascended and spent part of our 30-minute surface interval in briefing for our second dive, the shark feeding!
With full body wetsuits, extra weight and a new tank of air we descended to a small patch of sand omuncst the coral garden. We were assigned seats marked by rocks. We found a comfortable position be it kneeling or sitting, deflated our jackets, put our components of our octopus and our hands in front of us and waited. Vivian, our petite dive-masters and shark feeder jumped in wearing a chain mail suit and a helmet and holding a chum bucket. We watched as 9 or 10 sharks appeared as the scent of blood was in the water.
Vivian would spear a head or piece of dorado or grouper from her basket with a metal spear and hold it out. Jacks and snapper would munch on the chum until a shark came. With the intensity of a blood thirsty killer the shark would rip the meat off the pole and chew it. Vivian would bring the chum towards you and sharks would brush by you, touching you occasionally. At ...We did this for 35 minutes and once Vivian left we could search for shark teeth. I found a small tooth. I think I was the only person to find one. Throughout the 40 minutes we were down I used a third of a tank, way less than normal.
That was one of the coolest thing I've ever seen. It taught me to respect nature, because it is stronger than you!
Bahamian Beasts that Bite!!!
05 June 2009 | Allan Cay, Bahamas
Our story begins in the crystal clear waters of Staniel Cay. We dried off from our adventure in Thunderball Cave and made our way to the Staniel Cay yacht club. I was poised with the painter on the bow ready to leap ashore and clip us on when I spotted a shark! A nurse shark mind you, but still carnivourous. Nurse sharks don't eat live fish like other sharks but take conch and other crustaceans and crush the shells in their mouth and eat the creature inside. When the local spear-fisherman come in after a day of chasing grouper, hogfish, snapper and other tasty reef dwellers the nurse sharks know and 10 or 12 of them flock each afternoon for guts and other uncookable parts. The sharks ranged from 3 and a half feet long to over 6 feet long. I immediately rounded up bits from the fishermen and stood in shin deep water offering the tasty morsels as they passed by. If interested they would spin around and swim towards you, grab the meat and suck it up. If you tried to hold the bait while they pulled in a game of tug of war you would always lose. The skin on the beasts wae like sand-paper. If a curious shark came towards my feet i would step back, wait for it to leave but one time I was too late. The sharks, yes plural, came and not wanting sudden movement I stood there hoping my feet didn't look tasty. The sharks swam up, nudged my foot and moved on. These "beasts" were sometimes like dolphins at the aquarium, coming up on the ledge, removing their heads from the water and taking their food.
We bought some grouper and headed home. Dad removed 3 bits of inedible chum. We fed the first 2 to a large barracuda below the boat. I couldn't resist putting the third on a hook even though I was on my way to the shower and was in a towel. With a massive hook, 40 pound line and a 15 pound casing rod I dropped the chunk in. Our friend swam over leisurely and swallowed it. I jerked the rod to set the hook and the fight was on! He did a circle, dashed away from the boat, jumped several feet in the air and dove again. Dad and I fought him for a good half an hour. He would run and then dive. At one point he had all the line off the reel. We got him aboard and used the scale to weigh him. Dad held the tail and we weighed half the body, which registered at 22 pounds. Including the other half of the body he was well over 30 pounds! We released him and didn't see him again.
The next day we arrived at Leaf Cay in the afternoon. Leaf Cay is home to wild iguanas who can apparently hear a dinghy's engine hum and walk onto the beach when they do. We attempted to feed them lettuce by tossing it beside them. Finally one was bold enough to approach me. I held my lettuce out as he inched closer. He finally came and as i thought he would eat my lettuce he jumped up and engulfed three of my fingers down past the first knuckle. He even drew blood!
If ever in the Bahamas and you see a creature that could possibly have teeth, keep anything that you value away from it's mouth!
The Final Night Passage Aboard Windancer IV
04 June 2009 | Passage between Provo, T & C and Rum Cay, Bahamas
During our going away parties more than one year ago, many of our friends asked us what we would do at night during a long passage. Some even asked if we would anchor at night and then begin sailing again at dawn (not knowing that most of our overnight passages took us into water that was more than 4 miles deep!). It was not a silly question, especially to those not familiar with offshore cruising. But the answer is quite simple "You sail at night!".
Night passages and night sailing is something that we knew was going to be, to some extent, a major part of this adventure. We were planning on covering almost 15,000 nautical miles in just over one year, and in that time Windancer IV would cross the Atlantic twice and complete a major Mediterranean circle. Considering our tight schedule, and our aggressive distance target, night passages were mandatory .
At the beginning of the journey, the "crew", all guys that knew what they were in for - long passages of open ocean with a regiment of standing watch and sailing throughout the night - no matter what the weather. Team one, the first group that included my brother Bob and friend Darryl, experienced the horror of bad weather in the open ocean of the north Atlantic first hand - a touch of a Force 12 Gale coming off the American East Coast, with winds in excess of 55 knots, gusting north of 70, and seas that built to more than 25 feet. Ocean passages are part of the game, and weather "is what it is"!
Once we arrived in the Med, having passed through the Strait of Gibraltar like so many other vessels have done throughout the ages, the weather was incredibly kind to Windancer IV and her "young" crew. I use the term not to mention age but to relay experience.
The weather we experienced in the Med gave us the opportunity to explore far more than we had ever expected, traveling to the south of Spain, the amazing Balearic Islands three times, France's Cote d'Azur, Monaco's famous Monte Carlos, Corsica, Italy - ahhh, Italy was incredible with Pisa, Rome and the Cinque Terra just to mention a few of the highlights, Sicily, Malta, and North Africa - Tunis being our first stop, then Sardinia, a haven after a horrific storm, and back to Gibraltar before returning to the African continent at Tangier and being lucky enough to explore Morocco and one our favourite places, Marrakesh.
To travel this distance in such a relatively short period of time could only be possible with night watches.
Of course there was the final Atlantic crossing, all 3,000+ miles and more than 20 days. During this passage, with our incredible crew including Brother-in-Law Bruce Walker, Mar and Ariel, and our new friend Maris, we were blessed with light winds and following seas, and the vessel that had few if any issues, and we were safely delivered to St. Lucia without incident, and were able assist our good friends aboard Chilli Oyster with a mid-sea transfer of parts and cold beer that would make their crossing far, far more enjoyable with the return of battery power to their vessel. It is certainly something that we will never forget!
But as we sailed north-west from the Turks and Caicos Islands, after enjoying the incredible hospitality of this Caribbean nation, I realized this was to be our last "night passage" of the trip. On this night, we would be blessed with incredible weather, something that has been a mainstay of our trip.
The winds were very light and at our backs as we motor-sailed or just motored North-West from the Caicos Bank in deep water. The seas were almost flat granting us a perfect night for our final passage.
Connor stood watch until 10pm, or 2200 in nautical terms, then John took over and stood watch until just after 0300, when Ziggy took her last night watch.
This night would be a fond farewell to the night watch ritual aboard Windancer IV, almost glass-like seas, light following winds and fair weather with a clear view of the night sky and all her stars. Even a one-quarter slice of new moon helped the crew navigate through the night.
So that would be our last night passage of this adventure, and we were blessed, as we have been throughout this year at sea, with the weather gods on our side, and lady luck with us as we make our final way to south Florida, to the conclusion of this chapter of our journey.
As for pictures, none can really convey the feeling of a night watch.
Sometimes it's black as ink, without even a hint of a horizon, giving the feeling that age old mariners must have thought was the sense of going off the edge of the earth. Other times, you are graced with a full moon, almost bright enough to read the paper on the bridge. And then there were the nights when the thunder and lightning won't quit, or the nights when it is so still that you can hear the dolphins slashing in your bow waves.
All in all, the night passages were a big part of our time at sea, sometimes good, sometimes bad. The story of our lives, but on this day, and throughout our adventure, the night watch was generally a time to enjoy the experience of true life at sea.
So what do I post as a picture for this blogs posting - hmmmmmm, the perfect picture for a blog about night watch....... I've got it..........the best gift of all, a prefect sunrise!
02 June 2009 | Turks and Caicos
With less than a month before we return to Canada, we are taking Windancer IV back to Fort Lauderdale where John originally picked her up in November, 2005. It has been an incredible journey, but she is ready to return to the mainland.
Traveling from the US Virgin Islands on May 23 we did our first overnighters in a long time. With no wind, the passage was unbearably hot. To cool off we periodically would take cold showers and then slowly heat up again while sitting on the bridge. With new fishing lures behind us, we entered the deep waters looking forward to a wahoo or dorado bite. Bite we got, with a wahoo snapping our pink squid in half while avoiding the hook.
On the morning of May 24 we spotted dolphins swimming in our bow and were graced with moms and babies frolicking together. Over the two nights at sea we encountered huge lightening, thunder and rain making the passage uncomfortable and wet. We arrived in the late afternoon on the bank of Grand Turk and anchored in 15 feet. Ahead of us, lay the island and 150 feet behind us, the seas dropped off into a 6000 foot abyss. Over the next two days John, Connor and I dove three different spots in the clearest waters we had ever seen. While diving the wall (imagine a reef on its side) we saw amazing sea life including stunning, albeit poisonous lion fish, large grouper, lobster, enormous crabs and all the regulars including angel fish, snapper, barracuda, squirrel fish and parrot fish. While snorkeling a wreck in the shallow waters off the boat, Connor spied a nurse shark who spied him in return and calmly swam away - Connor doesn't make for the best vegetarian dish.
From Grand Turk we sailed across the Caicos Bank. Starting in deep waters, we watched the depth meter go from over 500 feet to 20 in a matter of minutes. It was an eerie feeling sailing in waters between 6 to 20 feet for over 8 hours. To cool off we anchored in the middle of nowhere in 10 feet of water and snorkeled the small reef off our port. We arrived in Providencial (aka Provo) late in the day and after following a series of designated way points, we turned into the South Side Marina under the guidance of the dockmaster who informed us, "if you ground, don't worry, it's sand, just keep coming." Bottoming out as we turned into the marina, we did a fast back up and safely made our way alongside.
Turns out, our timing could not have been better - it was formal night in the marina. Formal defined as, 'we wear nametags' at the BBQ. Joining the local cruisers who were mostly staying out of the marina in the near-by annex or in Sapodillo Bay, we fried up the last of our dorado and shared some cruising stories.
The next day, we rented a car and toured the island hitting Da Conch Shack for lunch where we watched the chef pull lunch out of the sea, hammer it and remove the conch and then tenderize it with a mallet. We dined on conch fritters, fried conch and conch chowder coupled with Turkshead Ale. We then headed up to Grace Bay and crashed the Ocean Beach Club East where we swam off the beach and then grabbed some time in their pool. It is off season and only a handful of guests were staying at the resort.
On the way back to the boat we provisioned at a beautiful grocery store since we had been told that provisioning in the Bahamas, our next destination, was almost non existent.
We bid a fond farewell to the people of the Turks and Caicos as we headed off to Sapodillo Bay for a quiet night. The people of the TCI were overwhelmingly friendly and honest - from the local who drove us to the customs dock only after moving his little 2 year old daughter into the back seat onto my lap to the customs official who tracked us down at the local library to return our copy of our immigration papers, to the dive shop team who drove to the end of the pier to transport our tanks for fill and then rented us 9 tanks for our three dives while filling our tanks for free. His partner then drove back to the dock, picked up the nine empty tanks, drove us to the gas station where we got diesel, swapped out our tanks and drove us back to our dinghy. In Provo, the folks who ran the marina greeted us with a welcome package chalk full of info and made sure no question went unanswered.
We never thought we would get to the Turks, but we did and having been there, and seen its beauty - the beaches, the waters, the diving and the people - it will definitely be on our got-to-go-back-to list.
More Fishing Tales
26 May 2009 | USVI and BVI
Of course, no blog entry would be complete without the requisite fishing stories. Not sure what we have shared with you lately, here is a brief synopsis of the fishing tales on Windancer.
The King Mackerel - after 9 hours at sea with three lines out while sailing from St Maarten to the BVI, we forlornly brought in the lines as we entered into the North Sound sailing past Richard Branson's resort on Necker Island. As Jenny slowly wound the hand reel in, it suddenly lurched backwards, squishing her thumb between the reel and the life line. Connor was at hand and helped her recover the reel, and to everyone's surprise, we caught a fish in 100 feet of water with the line 30 feet from the stern. Now, needing John's help due to the size of the fish, we collectively reeled in a 28lb King Fish which fed us and a few of the dockhands in Leverick Bay for days.
The Day of 3 - sailing from St Thomas to Nanny Cay, with our lucky tuna feather and teaser on the hand line, we nabbed three tunny in the course of three hours, and effectively, put an end to England's chance in the International Fishing Derby.
Feeding Barracuda - while anchored in Cooper Island, one of Windancer's favorite spots for its clear water and amazing snorkeling off Cistern Rock, we were befriended by a mother of all barracuda's who hovered in the shade under our hulls. Bothering no swimmers, it was quite happy to be fed by Connor and Jordan who offered it live bait they had caught off the dock in Norman the day before. See the pics of the fish on a line, the barry and then the line with only a fish head remaining.
The Casting Rod - with our famous tuna feather and teaser on his casting rod, Connor trolled for tunny between Tortola and Salt Island. He hooked a three pounder and got a real taste of true fishing as he played the fish, letting it run, reeling in, subtle, slow movements all the while trying not to snap the line. (He was no so lucky as a larger fish of unknown size and species took hook, line and sinker and snapped the line as we entered Peter Island).
We have perfected Ahi Tuna, sushi, sashimi, fish fry which our English friends tell us, rivals the Chip Wagons of Birmingham, fish curry, and barbequed fish steaks. Could Fish Tacos be next, Fireman Dave?
Doing Nothing, Doing Everything
25 May 2009 | BVI and USVI
A month from now we will be spending the last night of our Atlantic Circle on Windancer IV. It is almost impossible to believe that we have spent a year at sea and almost more impossible to imagine giving up this lifestyle. But...the show must go on.
Over the past few weeks we have been hanging in the BVI and USVI with our dear friends from Chilli Oyster. We helped delivered the crew of Chilli twice to the USVI to catch flights from St Thomas which is no great hardship as it requires that we spend time in Caneel Bay and check in at Cruz Bay, St John, the home of Margarita Phil's (with the world's largest margarita) and Woody's (where Rum and Cokes are $1 and Cokes are $2).
We also have been doing some required boat maintenance - raw water pump on the starboard engine, generator pump, head repairs (once again up to our proverbial elbows in #@@$#@). It is getting unbearably hot as the winds are down and working on the boat sans air conditioning can knock you out faster than a 40 oz margarita at Phils.
Hanging also meant just playing in some of our favourite spots in the BVI. The crew of Chilli has left the boat in Nanny Cay where she will summer on the hard. Currently, Becky, Dave and kids have returned to England for work, family visits and the wedding of Dave's daughter. Before they left, though, we ventured together to Norman, Cooper and Peter Islands. Sometimes doing nothing, is really the best. We watched as the boys rigged an old windsurfer sail on a boat hook and sailed the dinghy at 6 knots through the bay. We hand fed gulls off the stern of the boat, and after too many sundowners, regaled the neighbouring cruisers to a slightly slurred version of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline.
Days on the islands included the required snorkeling, dinghy fishing, sundowner cocktails, cooking together and the mandatory fishing derby. In the most unsettled of weather, while boats entered the Bight at Norman seeking shelter from the rain, we all sailed south to the Southern Drop-Off, where the BIG fish lurk. Shut out with only a bite and shredded lure, but no catch on board, we foolishly braved the freezing rain pelting down on us in search of our next fish story.
John, Connor and I took advantage of the slower days to get in some scuba dives at the Indians, the Mary L and Pat (off Cooper) and the Wreck of the Rhone (Salt Island), where only Connor and John dove the entire wreck along the bow, mid ships and stern. The world famous wreck was featured in the movie, The Deep, and is home to countless fish and even more snorkellers.
We said good-bye, once again, to the crew of Chilli, as they returned to England. Now with four weeks ahead of us, we are ready to sail from the USVI to the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and on to Fort Lauderdale, where we sadly will say good bye to Windancer IV, who is not just our home, but a member of the family.
We will be at sea for the next three days so will be out of email contact, but have another blog ready for Tuesday. Also, check out the photos in the gallery.
The Scuttlebutted Three
23 May 2009 | Cooper Island, BVI
Sitting a few hundred yards from the shore of Hallover Bay on Cooper Island in about 85 feet of water are the Marie L and the Pat. The Marie L was a 75-foot inter-island cargo ship, the Pat a 90-foot freighter. The Marie L. was purposely sunk in 1990 and the Pat in 1995. Coincidently I was born in 1995. If you descend down the line of the mooring buoy you reach a plateau about 45 feet down. Swim several hundred feet and you reach a reef that drops down to about 80 feet. The reef is abundant with coral and fish. Continue on and suddenly the two ships that are leaning against each other appear out of the haze caused by the algae bloom. The bloom which traveled up from South America and settled in the B.V.I. limits visibility to 65 feet. The algae could destroy the ecosystem that feeds on coral because the cloudier water could not allow coral to grow, thereby killing it. A new ecosystem of algae eaters could flourish though.
The Marie L is closer to the reef. We approached the wrecks and were amazed. Two massive French angelfish were feeding in coral on the wreck. We swam closer, getting within a few feet before they swam off. Schools of fish inhabit the wrecks. We swam to the stern and I entered the bridge and stood where the wheel once was. We moved onto the Pat. Beside the Pat are a toilet and a bidet. I immediately sat down whilst giggling through my regulator. Mom was on the bidet beside me. We started swimming into the abyss. Where are we going?
We were going to the Beata, a tug that was scuttled as well. On the front of the Beata were the massive tires, from an 18 wheeler maybe, that were used to push numerous boats from the perils of other boats or a dock. The pilothouse had stairs leading to the bridge and I couldn't resist the urge to mimic climbing them. So childish but so much fun.
Suddenly, as we neared the end of our dive, Mom's secondary regulator started flowing almost all of her remaining air. I gave her my spare regulator while Dad shut off her air. She went to the surface on Dad's spare.
Those wrecks were the most spectacular things I have encountered in all my scuba diving.
Tails from the Caribbean...
16 May 2009 | Passage from St Thomas to Nanny Cay
We had another first aboard Windancer IV today - catching three edible fish.
Ziggy had the faithful lure, our best aboard the vessel, and she caught three nice Little Tunny, one that was more than 6 pounds.
Sushi and seasame enchusted seared Ahi Tuna for dinner!
Cruise Ship Capitol of the World
14 May 2009 | Charlotte's Amalie, St. Thomas
After sailing downwind, the only way to go, we arrived in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, United States Virgins Islands and anchored in 25 feet not far from the cruise ship dock.
The picture shows a cruise ship departing from the port. As we entered the port, the cruise ship sent a VHF radio message to advise the incoming catamaran traffic to clear the channel. That incoming traffic included Windancer IV as well as an unknown charter cat.
Being the responsible skipper I am, I manoeuvred the vessel out of the main channel to allow for the safe exit of the cruise ship from the port. But the other vessel, who it appears did not have a VHF radio on and monitoring channel 16, the international distress channel, did not yield way.
So after several attempts to contact the wayward skipper of the other ship, a port authority vessel raced towards the approaching catamaran, who it appeared was playing "cat and mouse" with the cruise ship, to ensure that the cruise ship did not "run over" the poor charter boat, and scratch the paint on the cruise ship.
Connor got the whole show on video, saying "if this fool is going to get run over by a cruise ship, I want it on video!".
ARC Europe 2009 departs from Nanny Cay, BVI
07 May 2009 | Sir Francis Drake Passage off Nanny Cay Marina
Today at noon, the ARC Europe 2009 departed from Nanny Cay in the BVI en route to Bermuda. Windancer IV sailed with the ARC Europe 2008 one year ago today from Antigua. We had dinner last night at Peg Legs restaurant with the entire group, including our good friend Fionn from World Cruising. Too much fun was had by all.
Connor and his friend Jordan from Chilli Oyster were lucky enough to cruise aboard the rally commitee boat (it just happened to be a Lagoon 440 from Horizon Charters) to watch the rally start first hand. Their duties included checking the rally vessels off the list as they crossed the start line, and raising the start signal flags.
I watched the rally start with a touch of anxiety remembering what the start was like for Windancer IV and her crew last year.
Barbuda and the Barracuda
04 May 2009 | Barbuda
With only two months left in our journey, we have made the decision to head back north up the BVI. Although we will miss the Grenadines, we chose to go north to get some boat maintenance done. We also don't know where we will be leaving Windancer at the end of the trip and wanted to explore options in the BVI and perhaps Florida.
In the last week we have travelled back from Dominica to Guadeloupe, two days in Antigua and then to her sister island, Barbuda which is a long, low island about 30 nm north of Antigua.
The island only has 1700 inhabitants and is beautiful with soft whitish, pink beaches. We anchored off Coral Point with 4 other boats. The water was clear, the snorkelling good and the beaches pristine.
On our second night there, after Connor was dinghy fishing and caught a yellow tale snapper, John said it would be very cool to see a shark come eat the snapper we had hooked over the side of the boat. Suddenly I heard a 'phwish' sound and looking over my shoulder, saw a fin. With heart in my throat, i glimpsed again and to my relief realized that a dolphin was swimming beside our boat in 10 ft of water. It hung out a bit and then headed back to sea. A close encounter of the good kind.
The next morning we left at dawn to make the 80 nm to St Martin. Before noon we hooked 5 and brought 4 barracudas on board. They are a pain to catch as we always release them, but you have to be very careful or they can take your finger off. We were skunked the rest of the day, but enjoyed our downwind sail and arrived at 6 pm in Marigot.
Back to the land of French bread and awesome chandleries. We are making our way to Anguilla in the next few days before heading back to the BVI, our home away from home.
Searching for a Wild Apricot Tree
02 May 2009 | Dominica
Our day started with the scare of the shoes. Then Alexis and Junior showed us the Indian River. Finally we met Kevin who is a lean guy, not tall but not short. He has a bald head and a beard. We had heard a fair bit about him from our friends on Solitaire and all of it positive. He was to take us on an island tour in his minivan. We asked and he answered. That was how the trip was. As we set off on this excursion I asked Kevin to point out every fruit or nut tree he saw. We had not been underway for more than 10 minutes when Kevin pointed out a banana plantation. These trees resemble palm trees but instead of coconuts there are small branches with sprouts and a large, maroon, oval at the end of the branch. When the bananas begin to emerge from the sprouts the farmers place blue plastic bags over the branch to keep bugs and rats out. We were passing this when Kevin stopped suddenly, but not so suddenly as to cause whiplash. He quickly mentioned ripe bananas and hopped out of the car. He made his way deeper into the plantation, staying within view the entire time. He returned with six of the freshest bananas around. The bananas were not too firm and not too soft, not over ripe but not under ripe. I believe one word to define that would be perfect.
We continued on around the northern tip of the island. We were driving when Kevin again stopped. This time he jumped out and ran over to some ladies on the side of the road. He returned with 8 mangos for 2 E.C. dollars (the equivalent of roughly 1 Canadian dollar). I always thought there was one kind of mango. Wrong. There are two that I know of, normal and a green, sweeter one. I have always had my mangos nicely sliced but today it was the opposite. We were to peel the skin off with or teeth and throw it out the window. Then suck all the juice and fruit possible off the pit. MMMMMMM...
We continued on around one of the lushest islands I've ever seen. We stopped again but this time everybody got out. We had reached the cocoa tree that I had been so excited for. The pods were higher up than the tree than I could reach. Dad and Kevin picked three pods and were headed back to the car when I spotted another pod. I began to climb the tree when I saw it! A black centipede! I retreated down the tree at an alarming pace. I called Mom over and with her camera drawn we approached. I never did get that one pod that I spotted.
A few minutes later we entered the Caribe reservation. The Caribe reservation is where the Caribe Indians live. They don't wear loin cloths, paint their faces with battle paint or carry spears or bows and arrows. They live and dress as everyone else does. They still do things traditionally though, such as living or making cassava bread. Cassava bread is made from root of the cassava plant. Cassava bread is a sailors dream, filling, tasty (in my opinion) and never goes bad. We continued on to a "locals" restaurant. It did have a great view but any local who eats there is either very rich or given a better deal than that that was given to us. None of the food Jenny liked, so we got back into the van; Kevin was just finishing off a 'local Dominican cigarette', if you catch my drift.
We asked Kevin to stop at a real local's restaurant, a road-side stand that sells roast chicken, roti, or something a little more island. Our next fruit was the guava. We stopped and my first question was, "Is it wild?" Some plants that are even in the most remote places may be owned by somebody. Kevin and I ventured into the grove of wild trees, using my shirt as a bag. We collected about a dozen and a half. When I dumped them on the seat of the van Mom pointed out ants and backed off, my only comment was "Don't worry, Kevin says they don't bite!"
We turned inland and made our way to Spanny Falls. The roads were narrow and we nearly got into a collision twice. As we rounded one bend Kevin stopped off to the side of the road, a coffee tree. He and I crossed the street and began collecting, after only six or so we scurried away, because coffee trees house biting ants. As we walked to Spanny Falls my concentration went from finding fruit to finding a boa constrictor! We found none and swam in the falls without one spotting. The falls are about 100 feet tall and run off into a pool. We hiked over a ridge and swam in the second of the brother and sister falls.
When we dried off and got in the car I asked what other fruits we would see, his reply, "Now we hunt for a wild apricot tree!" when he found one, we all got out. I spotted a termite nest beside the tree and Jenny almost didn't accompany us. The apricots Kevin picked were the size if a softball and bigger, and those were the small ones. As we drove up the west coast of the island Kevin finally spotted a roadside stand. Jenny got chicken, Dad got dorado and I got a patty made from whole fish as long as your fingernail the width of an eraser shaving. These little fish beach themselves in hundreds once a month. The second stand we stopped at sold whole, roasted plantains, a thing that appears to be a thick banana and contains starch like a potato. While we drove the crew of Windancer except for myself dozed off and left Kevin and I to discuss a wide range of topics from favourite fish to snakes. Some say St. Martin is the culinary capital of the Caribbean, I say it's Dominca!
30 April 2009 | Guadeloupe
On April 23 Connor stated ''I want to catch big tuna'' and that's where it all began. We were sailing down the coast of Guadeloupe doing 9 knots when Connor looked over his shoulder and yelled '' fish on''. He ran down to the starboard stern and tried to reel it in. He could not get it so he called dad. Mom stayed on the bridge trying to slow us down and looked over her shoulder and saw the other line was tight. She ran and told Connor to slow the boat down. The only way we could slow down was if we turned into wind. As we did mom and dad raced to bring in two black fin tunas. After the traditional photos, dad filleted the smaller one (5 pounds, 20 inches). After the first one was done we decided to steak the other one. In order to do that you need to take out the guts, liver, stomach ect. Now that's one way to learn. Then you cut off the head and then slice about 2.5 cm. for each steak. We got about 8 steaks; now that's a nice meal. Also there was a whole bunch of little pieces that dad could not salvage and they became bait for Connor and his dinghy fishing. Connor and I took photos kissing the fish head. Now if you do not call that gross then there is something wrong with your head.
Connor MacKenzie - KMR Yacht Deliveries
26 April 2009 | St Maarten, WI
Connor as crew member aboard Vrijgezeilig...
Bitter sweet goodbye...
20 April 2009 | Carlisle Bay, Antigua, WI
On Saturday, April 18th, Windancer IV and her crew, who included the MacKenzie and Smith families, motored upwind, in light and comfortable conditions, and anchored in CarlisleBay, Captian John's favourite spot in the Leeward Islands. It was to be the Smith's last full day in the tropics, and we decided to make the best of it.
Shortly after arrival, Connor M and John swam to shore, and the rest of the team followed shortly thereafter in the dinghy. The afternoon was spent lounging by Carlisle Bay Resorts amazing freshwater pool. Upon our return to the vessel, Connor took it upon himself to rig the Bosun chair, a devise used to "scale the mast".
Connor M was the first to ascend to the top spreader, some 45+ feet above the surface of the water. While the Smith boys contemplated life high in the sky, Jennifer took the second up the mast. Not to be outdone, Connor S took to the skies, enjoying the ride high above the beautiful anchorage. Devon was hesitant, but in the end, very willing to join the rest of the crew on a ride to view life from above.
As with so many things in life, and amongst friends (and families), peer pressure can get the best of you. In this case it was the kids, who stuck there thumbs under their armpits, and waved their elbows in the air, while making the classic chicken sound - "Cluuuccckk-cluck-cluck-cluck,,,,". Alice was go to go, never to be outdone by her brave sons. And Alice joined the brave group that ventured above the decks of Windancer IV, and enjoyed a rare view of life from a few stories above the surface of the sea.
Shortly after the high-wire event, the crew worked together to cook a final feast worthy of a king, compliments of Smith's. Steak is a rare meal aboard the ship, mainly because we are thousands of miles away from beef country (Alberta or Texas), and generally speaking, a healthy beef cow is a rare sight in the Caribbean - goats and chickens run free in the streets, but beef cows, let's just say the Caribbean imports most of it's meat.
After an amazing dinner, thanks to the entire crew for helping cook, clear and clean, the adults took their positions at the cockpit table to complete a final round of the Euchre Tournament. This night was merely a formality, the guys had already won the tournament, game set and match days before, with stunning play. But the ladies staged a mini-comeback, and being good sports, we decided to let the girls have one final hurrah.
The stage was set, and the girls pulled off a lucky win in the first game. But miracle aren't easy to come by. During the second game (FYI - the girls would have had to wins both games ten to nil to even be considered as the tourney champions, but that was not in the cards) the guys never let up, and with Mike's amazing skill and a few gutsy calls by both Mike and Captain John, victory was in the bag.
One funny aside, to take the edge off the fierce competition. During the game, Devon decided to pee off the side of the boat. FYI, peeing overboard is forbidden aboard Windancer IV, primarily because most casualties at sea are found with their zippers down. But while at anchor, it is a time honoured tradition to relieve ones self over the side of the vessel. Devon wanted to complete his adventure at sea with a wee, but as he passed Alice in the cockpit, and unbeknownst to the rest of the crew, but within earshot of brother Connor S, he told his mom his intentions. "Just don't fall overboard" she replied.
Well, moments later, a quiet "plop" was heard. Had it not been for Alice, the Euchre game would have continued. Alice calls out "Devon, Devon, DDEEVVOONN!". "I'm OK" Devon replies while swimming back to the ladder at the stern of Windancer. "Do you have your glasses" a worried Alice replies. "Ya, Mom, I've got them. " As Devon climbed aboard, dripping, fully clothed, after a late night unscheduled dip in the ocean only to say - "I thought the lifelines (the wires around the boat the keep crew and contents from going overboard) were in place. As it happens they were not, and our friends Devon, God love him, took a tumble off the side. Funniest thing is, and bless his soul, not a peep out of the guy on his way down - not a "Holly F$#&" or a "AHHHHHHH...", just a nearly silent "plop".
We miss the Smith family and wish them well. The trip home had it's moments, but they arrived safely back in Toronto just the same. I want to thank the Smith family, and all our great family and friends that have made this trip truly the trip of a lifetime - best wishes to all.
The People Make the Island
19 April 2009 | Portsmouth, Dominica
Never trust an island that boasts "the friendly island" on its license plate. Instead, meet the people and let them be a testament to the friendliness of their island.
Earlier this week, while on Dominica, we experienced friendliness at its best. We had arrived mid afternoon and hooked up for the evening with our friends Barry and Allison and their children, Kayla and Quinn, from Solitaire. Having already spent a week on the island, they gave us the run down on provisioning, tours and boat boys. As you arrive in Portsmouth, the second largest town on the island, you are greeted by River Guides in small fishing-type boats, who are government sanctioned and do everything from arranging river tours, picking up garbage, and delivering ice and fruit. Upon the recommendation of Solitaire we hooked up with Alexis. Once you have a guide, the other guides leave you alone. There are secondary boat boys who paddle on windsurfers and offer to take your garbage. This is okay in the boat boy system, so on the first evening, we handed all our garbage to one of the windsurfer boat boys.
Well, if you recall from a few blogs ago, we had gone hiking in Guadeloupe and our runners were filthy. What do our dirty shoes have to do with the friendliness of the islands? Whoa, I am getting there. Turns out we had stowed our runners in a garbage bag and pulled the bag out of storage just before the garbage boy arrived on board. See where I am going? With our other two bags, we handed them four very dirty pairs of runners.
When we woke up at 630am the next morning to embark on our river and island tour, we realized that we did not have any shoes. And today, we needed our shoes to hike to the Spanny Falls in the rainforest. So, when Alexis arrived to take us on the River Tour, we shared our dilemma. Without a word, he motored off and 15 minutes later, returned with four pairs of sparkly clean runners. Turned out the garbage collecting boat boy gave them to another woman and she in turned bleached them and put them on her roof to dry. Alexis had seen the shoes on his way to pick us up and simply went to the house, explained the situation and returned with our shoes.
In an almost third world county, I am sure a couple of pairs of Nikes and Reeboks are worth quite a bit. But the people are honest and the return of our shoes came without incident. We went on the River Tour with Alexis and Junior, who is training to be an official River Guide and then followed this up with an all day tour with Kevin who took us around the island sharing the sites and natural fruits of this very tropical, very lush island. And it came as no surprise the next morning that the garbage collecting boat boy came by and politely requested some cash to pay the woman who washed all our shoes. The payment and tip came easily.
No 'friendly island' license plate; just friendly, honest people. Dominica will go down in my mind as one of the friendliest places we have been.
(Stay tuned for "On the Hunt for a Wild Apricot Tree" by Connor and pictures to be posted.)
A Week in the Life of the MacKenzie’s
18 April 2009 | Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, WI
Alice Smith (Purser)
Well the week is over and it sailed by too quickly.
The Smith's have sailed in the ocean, caught and ate fresh tuna, swam and snorkelled in many shades of unbelievable blue water, felt sea sick, slept on the trampoline, held live starfish, picked sea shells, ate better meals than I cook at home, drank (must stay hydrated ;o), made new friends (I've always loved the Brits), watched movies, played euchre, read, did homework, jumped off the back of the boat, fallen of the side of the boat (Devon went into the record books for this one which I'm sure will be detailed in a further blog), shopped in stores where a box of cereal is $8 but a 1.7L bottle of rum is $11, was hoisted up the mast, sailed the Windancer IV and pondered why anyone would want a mono haul vs. a catamaran. We have not missed many of the "luxuries" of home (we take too much for granted). I appreciated my hot, navy shower every night.
All the MacKenzie's have been incredible hosts!!!
Captain John, aka Skipper Extraordinaire, Sailing Instructor, Head Chef and Bartender
First Mate Ziggy, aka Co-Captain (in all aspects of life of the boat - wife, mother, teacher, sailor, chef), Fishing Instructor, Literary God and Grammar Nazi
Dinghy Captain Connor, aka Amazing Host to Devon & Connor S happily showing them the "ropes" (but they are called lines on a boat), Crew, Fisherman and Wikipedia on legs
Cruise Director Jenny, aka Head Pastry Chef, Assistant to Ziggy and the Sunshine of the boat
All in all it has been an amazing experience and one the older Smith's are not likely to do again. I sincerely hope the Smith boys will. So with much gratitude and appreciation, we THANK YOU very much for allowing us to be a part of your journey and life! Cheers!!!
Devon's in Control
17 April 2009 | Passage from Jolly Harbour to Carlisle Bay, Antigua
I was very excited that I got to be the Helmsmen ( co-captain) when we left Jolly Harbour today (Saturday) and sailed to Carlisle Bay.
Captain John was my sailing coach. Coming out of the harbour was a little bit tricky because I had to sail between buoys, poles and ships.
In the open water, I put the vessel on auto pilot. I learned to steer 10 degrees to port (turn left) and 10 degrees to starboard (turn towards the right). When I was sailing we saw a quite a few sea turtles but we didn't catch any fish, that was kind of disappointing.
It was cool to be in control. "Coach" John was a great coach and it was an exhilarating experience. I'm so glad the MacKenzie's invited us on their boat. I wish it did not have to end.
Deep Thoughts by Connor Smith
16 April 2009 | Antigua
A NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE!
Throughout this week we have encountered many new experiences that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Within the first 24 hours, we saw a dog maul and sadly kill a lamb even though John, Connor M, and Devon tried to make a daring rescue attempt. We also jumped off a dinghy going at high speeds and saw Connor fall and hurt his back on a skin board. We went to Nelson's Dockyard and saw all of the Oyster boats preparing for the Regatta. Oyster boats are a very expensive type of sail boat; some would call them the Rolls Royce of sail boats.
Over the next couple days we went to Green Island and St. John, the capital of Antigua, where we snorkelled on a coral reef and saw lots of cool coral and fish. During our time at Green Island we found many conches that are beautiful colours. After we travelled to St. John and ate lunch, John luckily checked the boat and saw the Windancer IV floating away! With the help of Connor they made a dramatic rescue of the boat. We also bought DVD movies and experienced the world's best ice cream. From St. John, we went snorkelling on another coral reef where we saw sting rays, sea turtles, and a school of flying fish. Later that day we went to Jolly Harbour and had a Fish Fri and great fried chicken. The rest of our time at Jolly Harbour was spent swimming in a pool with the perfect temperature and we almost caught a huge tarpon down by the docks!
We are very grateful to have been on a boat with as great of sailors and hosts as the Mackenzie's are.
The Smith Family Blog
15 April 2009 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
The Smith Family Blog (sitting in Jolly Harbour, Antigua drinking a Carib, soaking up some rays and wondering "isn't everyone doing this today?)
We have two days left in our trip and are having a fantastic time. The MacKenzie's have been tremendous hosts. There's Captain John (John's quite the skipper, he can park this sucker like nobody's business. Try parallel parking a bus and I think you'll get the idea and I've only heard the word "mutiny" twice, ok three times tops). First Mate Ziggy is John's right hand (wo)man (although at times I have sensed some tension. Once we were coming into harbour with Ziggy at the helm and another boat was crossing in front of us Ziggy asked John what she should do and John replied "Don't hit him". Ziggy punched him (which I thought merited a walking of the plank, at least some time in the brig. She got off scott free. Boy I miss the 1700's). Dinghy Captain Connor, who has been a great host to Devon and Connor as well as a great help to the Captain and First Mate (one thing that hasn't changed is Connor's ability to barrage you with facts and information that he shares with you regardless of their relevance or lack thereof). Lastly, there is the Cruise Director Jenny who is quiet, sweet and cute as a button (yes she seems a little out of place in this bunch). Add to this crew Communications Director Connor Smith (I give him this title as his biggest concern is when we'll be close enough to land for an internet connection so he can e-mail his girlfriend). Special Events Director Devon Smith (when are we going to fish, when are we going to snorkel, when are we going to sail....). Purser Alice Smith (because at least three times a day she says "Has anybody seen my purse"). And last but not least (ok maybe least) Me. I'm going with Beverage Director as it seems my role is to drink as much of John's beer as I can.
It would be nice to think we're getting special treatment but the truth is I think they treat all of their visitors this well. John and Ziggy put out a pretty nice spread. We've had BB'Q'd fish, chicken with risotto and Caesar salad, bacon and eggs, pancakes etc. Yep the MacKenzies are really "roughin" it at sea.
We have had great weather every day has been around 30 C with sunshine and a fresh breeze coming out of the east that makes it very comfortable. We have seen some beautiful scenery, rays, sea turtles, coral reefs, caught a 4 lb Tuna (which Devon and Connor reeled in and John filleted on the spot and made into the freshest sushi you'll ever see) and sailed at 10 knots in 8 ft + seas (which I'm told is pretty fast). And that was just Monday. The highlight of the trip has to be our nightly euchre games where John and I are absolutely schooling Ziggy and Alice. John is very competitive which I did know but I didn't realize how competitive. The ladies had the temerity one night to actually win a game and the next morning I arose to find Ziggy sleeping on the couch. That may have been one of the times I heard the word mutiny. We've also witnessed the boating phenomena called "dragging". This is where you anchor and are seemingly secure only to find out that sometime later you are moving. One night we anchored and I was awake first. I looked out the window and was pretty sure we had moved. Since we didn't seem to be moving any longer I decided against waking Captain John. He came up a while later looked out the window and went "Oops" (apparently that's a nautical term as I've heard it quite a bit this week). The second time we had anchored at the capital city of St. John to go in for some lunch and shopping. As I waited to pay the bill Captain John went sprinting by me doing his best Jesse Owens impersonation. John had taken a peek to check on the boat to see it floating backwards towards a rock wall. Captain John was able to dinghy out and avert disaster.
We've also had the pleasure of meeting and socializing with some of the friends the MacKenzie's have made on this adventure. It helps you understand why this has been such a "Fantastic Voyage". We are so grateful to have been a small part of it.
Well when I sat down to type I said this would be a one Carib blog and the lack of beer in my bottle tells me that my time is up. We'll see you all back in the real world.
The Arrival of the Smith Family...
12 April 2009 | Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, WI
The Arrival of the Smiths
After almost a week enjoying various anchorages and beauty of Antigua, we welcomed our friends, Mike, Alice, Connor and Devon Smith, from Mississauga. Mike, or as he is known to our Connor, is Coach Mike, Connor's hockey coach for the last few years with the Port Credit Storm.
Before the Smiths arrived, we have played in Jolly Harbour enjoying their pool and the best fried chicken this side of KFC. We rounded the southern side of the island, starting in crystal clear shallow waters laden with turtles making our way into 500 foot depths where we caught two barracudas. After spending two days in Browns Bay and Green Island with our ARC friends aboard Sophistikate and Chilli Oyster, we sailed back into the famous Falmouth Harbour, home of Nelson's Dockyard and English Harbour.
During our return to Falmouth, Jenny caught her FIRST fish, a 33 inch Wahoo. YAHOO!! Marinating in ginger, oil and soy, we are looking to dinner tonight.
Last night we ventured to Shirley Heights, a barbeque and bar atop the hill overlooking both English and Falmouth Harbours. After a few rum punches and jerk chicken, we returned (all 18 of us) in a cab and settled in for an early night. The boys spent their first night sleeping on the trampolines while Jenny slept in the cockpit of Chilli. Lucky for all, no rain.
After some touring Nelson's Dockyard today, we are returning to Green Island to enjoy the snorkeling and swimming.
06 April 2009 | Transit from Guadeloupe to Antigua
Life aboard Windancer IV is pretty nice..... OK, it's amazing. Anchorred in a new, perfect, beautiful bay every day, swimming and snorkelling in crystal clean water, and on, and on and on.
Today was my one year anniversary of our life aboard Windancer IV. A year ago today I spent my day starting in a hotel near the Toronto airport, delivering all 9 boxes of personal gear to Air Canada, including a windsurfer, hoping it would all make my three connections, then hailing a taxi, loading onto a ferry to the BVi............
But today, my one year anniversary of living aboard Windancer IV, Connor and Ziggy mentioned, calmly, "We'd like to catch you a huge Dorado for your one year anniverasary".
AND THEY DID.
05 April 2009 | Guadaloupe
As we left Grand Terre, the right, smaller wing of the Guadeloupe butterfly wing we marveled at how lush the island was. Banana plantations with blue bags covering the bunches, mango trees laden with fruit, palm trees and green as far as the eye could see. We were on our way to the Carbot Falls and on the way stumbled into the nicest rum distillery.
Driving up a tree shaded road reminiscent of the Napa Valley we came across the Longueteau Rhum distillery, one of the oldest on the island. Family run for over 100 years with the original plantation house up on the hill, we knocked on the door of the storage and shop building. Greeted by the owner, we were told to take ourselves on the tour, as it was Sunday, but that upon our return, he would be happy to answer any questions we had. We took off on foot with Brad, the German shepherd and walked through the sugar cane fields to the thresher building. There are three stages in rum distillation - harvest, crushing and distilling/bottling. Okay, four stages if you count drinking. The machinery looked like it could have been the original tools and reeked of rotting sugar cane heaped outside the building. Next we wandered to the main house where Francois lives with his family. Their home overlooks a small pond and from the porch you can see down to the ocean and over to Iles des Saintes, Marie Galante and, I am guessing, on a clear day all the way to Dominica. The bougainvillea and flowers lined the path as we made our way back to the showroom.
Francois shared some of the secrets of rhum, as it is known here, and treated us to samples of rhum agricole from the young clear drink that Guadeloupians favour fro day to day drinking, but what I thought could be used to remove nail polish or start your dinghy (even John, a true rum connoisseur, found it quite foul). Then we explored Ti Punch (peTIt), an aperitif made with cane, a slice of lime and an ounce or two of rhum. Sipped slowly, it could be the reason why the French have a three-hour lunch break. We sampled rhum vieux, a specialty in France ranging in age from 3 to 13 years before finally settling on a 1995, in honour of Connor's birth year. We also tried some of the punches mixed with fruits - coconut, banana, passion fruit, pineapple, Christmas (orange, Clementine and coffee flavour). According to Francois, a bottle of the punch, although only 12% unleashes the singer and salsa dancer in us all.
The distillery also releases an international brand called Karukera, named after the original name of the Indians when Columbus visited in 1493. With our purchases in hand, we headed back to our little Citroen C3 cabriolet and ventured on to hike the Carbot falls.